"The 2017 Block 9 Shiraz, from 30-year-old vines and released this month, shimmers with an amazing vibrant spiciness." Max Allen, The Financial Review, May 2019
Guy Lyons is a quiet winemaker in a quiet wine region, producing wines that needs to be heard. After studying in South Australia, and travelling the world working with Europe’s best (and I mean best) Shiraz/ Syrah and Riesling producers, he is now back at his family’s winery in Mt. Barker, Forest Hill Estate.
From the outside looking in, Forest Hill might look like a classic winery that is maintaining a solid level, but there is much more to the story. It was the first vineyard planted in Western Australia’s Great Southern region, back in 1965. That makes its vine material older than the whole of Western Australia’s more recognized Margaret River. It was planted in a cool, rugged area, on ancient rock soils of schist, gravel and granite over clay. It has since gone on to provide us with one of Australia’s great Rieslings (Block 1), and now that Guy Lyons has control of production, I think we’ll be talking about this Block 9 Shiraz as one of Australia’s great sites and styles for Shiraz.
To us at Press, this wine looks more European than Australian; like high quality St. Joseph, the appellation over the Rhone river from the famous Hermitage, in the Northern Rhone Valley in France. Perhaps this is because Guy worked with cult French winemaker Jean Gonon, or perhaps because of the hard granite and gravel soils which are akin to those in the Rhone.
The vineyard is also farmed more like European vineyards, with old, deep rooted vines that yield low and do not see any irrigation. This forces the vine roots to penetrate vertically through the gravel to the clay sub soils where it draws its water, among other nutrients and minerals. Guy’s wine-making also has an old-world sense, with a small portion of the wine being fermented on its stems (whole bunch) and only 15% of the French oak being new, drawing out floral aromas and Indian spice.
We first tasted this wine about 12 months ago, when catching up with Guy in Melbourne. It was well before release, but he was keen to show us, out of an unlabeled sample just off the bottling line. The wine sizzled, and my original tasting notes went something like; “can't get my head around this wine, a lot going on, keeps changing. Olive, blue fruit, smoke, granite, pigskin, spice market. Has a new-world style fruit generosity, sometimes fruit pushing out, other times old world savory flavours and spice? Tannins are ripe, firm and present, though mid palate juiciness on show. Lingers. A compelling wine, see in six months...” Time has been this wines friend and it is in the zone. It is very much worth a look now and will cellar for a good twenty years. If you want a few years head start, we can also source 2014 vintage for you.
It will handle all grilled or roast dark meats, though if you want to try it out with some more exotic flavours, try it with Morrocan lamb or a beef Massaman curry. Decant for an hour to let any reductive notes blow off and the wild spice perfume to show.
We hope you enjoy it.